Alright, if you ask me one place that has come more like a wonderland to me, it’s Dzongu. An unassuming tiny village in the state of Sikkim, it’s one of the few non-touristy places that you can visit in Sikkim. Entirely offbeat and thankfully so, Dzongu is not more than a tiny speck on the map. Yet it has a charm that you might find only in the deserted lanes of Spitior the remotest corner of Alaska.
In short, there’s nothing like a trip to Dzongu, that if you are ready to go off the grid for some days!
So, where exactly is Dzongu?
Though this map makes for an answer to the question, let me try to put it in words as well. So, Dzongu is a tiny piece of land wedged between River Teesta, the Kanchendzonga Biosphere Reserve and Tholung Chu. In terms that are not geographical, it’s one of the most surreal places in India, well preserved and protected by the Lepcha tribe. If you’re a movie buff and have seen any of the installments of Twilight series, you can well visualise Dzongu as the very gorgeous Forks, where the movies were largely set.
What to do at Dzongu?
In one word, nothing. Because Dzongu has vistas as fascinating as the one in the photograph above. Since you would be living in the buffer zone of the Kanchendzonga National Park, nature will be your best pal here. So the lush green landscapes look greener, the wind never gets stale or stagnant, you would have orchids and mushrooms growing by the roadside, short (and long) trails that end and start abruptly, gregarious waterfalls, a very wildly flowing river and a lot of picnic spots.
Perfect settings if you’re an Enid Blyton fan.
Other than doing nothing, you can hop for a quick climb to a monastery by picking the trail that starts from the Government School at Upper Dzongu. Nestled at a quaint meadow-like place, the monastery overlooks abruptly rising stretched of pines on one side and the Dzongu settlement on the other.
More often than not, you would find a monk or two showing you the way to the monastery. Another 2 day trek leads to an ancient monastery, so yes, pack your trekking shoes if you are in for a night out under the stars!
The second best thing that you can do it to walk till the banks of River Teesta and take a dip! While it’s definitely more than plunging into the Ice Bucket Challenge, it’s as wild an experience as one can be. Yet, if you’re bent on staying away from the icy waters of River Teesta, you can hop to the hot water springs at Dzongu and come back to the banks for a log fire and freshly prepared lunch (homestay guides accompany tourists and set this up for them. Also, there is no other place to stay other than the homestays!).
Now if that sounds like too much of effort, you can just sit by your homestays’ window and look out at the clouds playing and parting to get you some astonishing views of the Kanchendzonga range! Yes, you read that right.
Other than that, you must go for a walk across the meandering roads of Dzongu. Every turn unveils a new blend of land, mountains and the sky, so keep your camera handy. If lucky, you would be invited for a tumbler of Chi, the very famous and very heady home-brewed millet beer of Sikkim. But, before you take that sip, make sure you offer it to God by sprinkling some rice grains on it and towards the sky.
An evening or two can be well spent in conversation with the Lepchas here, as they share their ideology of worshiping nature and their efforts to save River Teesta from some proposed hydro projects. Plus, there are a lot of folk tales (the shaman ones too), which they’ll be too happy to narrate to you.
For the explorers, there is a lake at Hee Gyathang, the snow-laden views from Pentong, the two villages of Tingvong and Kusong, and the lake and meadows at Keushong.
Where to stay at Dzongu?
Dzongu is soon coming up with a lot of homestays. For now, you can book a stay at any of the 8-10 functional ones. Some of the most favourite names in the travel circuit are Mayal Yang Homestay and Sikkim Himalayan Homestay in Upper Dzongu. Other than a modestly priced stay (often includes meals as well), you get to stay with the locals, experiencing the way the life in the region is.
How to reach Dzongu?
Dzongu is well-connected via roads that might go ramshackle in monsoons. You can drive down to Dzongu from Gangtok (3.5 hours), taxi fare starting from INR 2500. Or else, you can take a shared taxi from Gangtok, get off at Mangan and then take a private taxi to Dzongu.
When to visit Dzongu?
April to September, barring heavy rains, is the best time to visit Dzongu. Mid-April sees the mountain side coming alive with patches of rhododendron blooms, making Dzongu all the more surreal.
Important tip – Since Dzongu is a reserved area, tourists need a permit to visit it. You can either get those in advance from your homestay (advisable), or get one at the check post at Dzongu. Carry photostat copies of your address and photo proof and passport size photos of yours to apply for the same.
Write to us if you’re still unsure of how to plan a trip to Dzongu. If not, then mark Dzongu as a must visit on your next holiday. While I’ll be now off to hunt for more such offbeat travel experiences, don’t forget to leave your feedback for this one.
Till then, happy travelling.
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